Thursday, 31 March 2011

How old is the crossword puzzle?

I realized while doing some research last week that the crossword puzzle turns 100 in 1913. I’m rather surprised that crosswords are that young. Since I love crossword puzzles so much, I have created a very simple one for everyone this week with all of the clues showcasing world events or items created between 1906 and 1913.


2. The first __________ school and daycare for working class families opened in Rome in 1907.

7. The first Victor Victrola, a __________ record machine is manufactured in 1906.

9. In 1907 Australia and New Zealand become _______________.


1. In 1911 _____________ Women's Day is celebrated for the first time.

3. This steel was invented in 1913.

4. In 1908 Robert Baden-Powell started the _______ _______ movement.

5. In 1908 Henry Ford produced the first _____ ____ automobile.

6. Alfred ________ is exonerated in 1906.

8. The modern version of this closer was invented in 1913.

Monday, 28 March 2011

POW artifact: suitable for your collection?

Museums are often contacted with requests to accept donations, such as the 4800 Salt & Pepper Shakers we referred to earlier this month, or Prisoner of War artifacts, as was the case recently.

To Whom it May Concern:

I am a volunteer at a senior's residence in Toronto. An elderly gentlemen here, Dr. B, was a medical doctor at the Medicine Hat POW camp, and upon leaving the camp, the German POWs presented him with a hand-carved box containing an entire chess set that they had created in the camp. While doing some research, I became aware that you have POW artifacts in your collection. Dr. B would very much like to donate the box and chess pieces to your museum if you would deem it suitable. He would be happy to document the circumstances in which this item came into his possession.

Regards, L.G.

Although hard to pass up a fantastic offer like this - in 2008 the Galt hosted the exhibit For you the war is over: Second World War POW Experiences - there is a more suitable location for these artifacts.

Our Curator, Wendy Aitkens, responded:

Dear L.G.,

The POW artifacts in the Galt Museum & Archives collections are those that refer specifically to the Lethbridge POW Camp 133.

I suggest you contact Tim McShane, Museum Curatorial Assistant at the Esplanade Museum in Medicine Hat and discuss a possible donation of Dr. B’s POW box with him. The story of the carved box and Dr. B’s work at the camp will be more meaningful in the Medicine Hat museum.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Lethbridge Citizens Band Reborn

In the early 1900s, Lethbridge residents were grandly entertained by the Lethbridge Citizens Band. The band, shown here in front of their "clubhouse" (Galt Archives P19760220030), even won a prize at the Winnipeg Exposition in 1909.
This May select members of the Lethbridge Community Band Society are going to honour this historic Lethbridge band.
Throughout the planning for The Greatest Years You Never Knew exhibit, we knew we wanted to do something on music -- what was popular between 1906 and 1913, what entertainment did Lethbridge people attend, etc. Going to the experts, we got in touch with the Lethbridge Community Band Society who did research into the era.
The band has chosen several songs from the time period and have added them to their repertoire. They will be playing the songs for the first time at the Historical Society of Alberta conference being held here in Lethbridge in May. For the performance the group is calling themselves the Lethbridge Citizens Band and the performers, drawn from both the Gold Band and the Silver Band, are hoping to come in costume as close to the original uniforms as possible.
The music chosen comes partly from research on what the original citizens' band played between 1906-1913 including such standards as God Save the King and the Maple Leaf Forever. Additionally, the group will play a special medley of songs from the original 1902 Broadway version of the Wizard of Oz.
The dress rehearsal and performance will also permit us to tape the band's performance and to incorporate their music into the exhibit. Visitors to the exhibit (from June to the run of the exhibit in September) will have the opportunity not only to hear the music of the time period but to hear it played by Lethbridge's own Community Band.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

What do you want the Galt Museum & Archives to exhibit?

We are dedicated to providing our community with exhibits that people in our community want to see. It is important that we learn what people in southwestern Alberta find intriguing, what topics need more information and discussion, and what fascinating themes we can explore together. What is important to you?

The Galt is a collaborative community focused museum and so, we are asking you to tell us what:

  • stories are significance to southwestern Alberta,
  • upcoming special anniversaries are there for an organization, business, event, or building you are familiar with,
  • social, economic, political, humanitarian, environmental concerns or events are important to you,
  • artifacts, photographs, and archival materials you have that will illustrate your ideas.

With your help, the Galt will develop a Special Exhibition schedule for the years 2013 to 2015 that will be filled with topics you feel are interesting and important. Wouldn’t it be great if one of your ideas is chosen! For this go around we will be looking at topics suggested until May 31.

I’d love you to add your comments below, but you are also welcome to send me your thoughts and suggestions by email: or write down your ideas and drop them off at the main desk in the museum. Be sure to include your name and contact information so I can talk to you about your ideas.

Monday, 21 March 2011

4800 Salt & Pepper Shakers

Not long ago, we received the following email in our information mailbox [I've taken out locations and names]:


I'm emailing you on behalf of my mother, whose deepest wish is to donate her collection of 4800 pairs of salt and pepper shakers to a museum. This collection represents a lifetime labor of time, finances and care. Each pair is unique, in excellent condition, and fascinating to view. Through the years, her collection has garnered a great deal of interest from collecters across North America. Placing her collection in a museum would also allow our extensive family, one that is now enjoying its 5th generation in the [] area, a chance to continue enjoying her legacy.

She was born and raised in [a small area community] and lived there for approximately 23 years before marrying my father, and has spent the last 60 years in the [] area. She now lives in [a] Lodge and is dispersing her personal items and placing her house on the market. The [area] Museum Board felt it was too large of a collection for them to accommodate, therefore I'm approaching you.

Would this collection be something you might be interested in? If so, I would be happy to provide further information for you. She has also offered her custom built cabinetry for donation in the event you may find it useful. If not, would you be able to direct me to an appropriate museum/facility/person?

There must be many collectors, families of collectors and museums experiencing similar conundrums. Our Curator, Wendy Aitkens, offered this response:

Thank you for the offer of this collection, we appreciate you thinking of the Galt Museum.

It seems your mother has put much effort and care into gathering together a wide assortment of salt & pepper shakers.

The type of artifacts that the Galt Museum & Archives collects reflects a different way of looking at objects. Instead of collecting many types of the same thing, we look at gathering objects that have a strong relationship to the human history of southwestern Alberta and a unique story associated with each object.

With this in mind, we do not accept collections such as your mother’s.

It is rare that museums accept large individual collections, as adequate storage space and sufficient staff and other resources are often not available, and cataloguing, processing and caring for each item is extremely time consuming.

If you feel there is one pair that is significant to your mother’s own story or the story of her family and their life in Alberta, the Galt may be interested in that as a donation and as a way to preserve your family’s story.

What do you think should be done with private collectors item collections? Should they be sold on eBay, or perhaps to an antique store? Do community museums have an obligation to accept such collections?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Balancing the Quirky

I've always been attracted to quirky stories -- in life and in history. Quirky stories are the ones I find most interesting; the ones I like to research; and (I'm very happy to say) the ones that audiences and visitors respond to most positively. There are few things better than a quirky, compelling anecdote to get people to pay attention. When I overhear people passing on stories I've told, it's almost always this part of the presentation that gets passed on. These funny little bits are the part of the stories that are remembered. And this holds true for children and adults.

But as a historian and a teacher I'm often left wondering, is it enough? Because quirky stores are so powerful and memorable, do they create incorrect assumptions and fail to provide the appropriate level of balance? Or are these sorts of stories a starting point of getting people interested in history and which will eventually lead many of them to a better understanding of history? I don't have an answer. I just keep using whatever tools I have to get people more interested in history and to develop their knowledge of history.

So when Chinook Country Tourism approached me about writing compelling stories of Lethbridge history for this year's Lethbridge Guide these were the sort of thoughts going through my head.

I wanted fun, exciting, little known, slightly titillating, compelling stories that made people want to read and share the history page. But I also didn't want people reading it and thinking this was the entirety of Lethbridge history.

I hope that when the Lethbrige Guide 2011 comes out later this spring you'll take a look at it and judge for yourself whether or not I hit the right balance. Personally, I think anytime you can cover everything from a 15 pound baby to a surgery involving a dog's bone to the first airflight over the Rocky Mountains in less than 1000 words, it's been a fun article to write. Hopefully it's also an equally interesting article to read.

The Galt will be posting some of the quirky stories to our Fans starting next week so you'll get an advance read of some of the stories soon to hit the brochure rack.

Friday, 11 March 2011

When Cows Wandered Lethbridge and Sheep Lived at Henderson Lake

In just over a month and a half the exhibit -- Greatest Years You Never Knew: Lethbridge 1906 to 1913 -- will open. I've feeling very good about where most of the things are but time is getting close.

We are inviting/encouraging people to come in period clothes for the opening on April 30th (and we hope some of you will take us up on it). Some of our staff are going all out and their planned outfits are looking rather amazing. Several people have been asking me what I'm going to wear. They didn't think my answer of "I'm coming as a time traveler from 2011" was appropriate. So this past week I got into the fun of it all and found an outfit on-line that I think will be very suitable. It should arrive around March 22 so fingers crossed that it's what I think it's going to be. I'm not going to give any details but I'm designing my outfit around clothing that almost caused a riot in Toronto in March 1911.

The labels and panels have all been written but this past week I've been working on finalizing the details for the "ID cards" -- information on random individuals living in southern Alberta during this time period and whose stories will add more context for visitors. Our hope is to have a diverse group of people represented (but we only want about 15 cards) -- different ages, social status, marital status, country of origin, etc. But, as might be expected, there's much more information available on people from certain groups and very limited information on other groups. Hopefully people will be inspired to go home and think about things can be donated to help fill out the historical information.

Anine, Brad and I are working to create an interactive with "blocks" designed to be historic Lethbridge buildings (some that still exist but all of which were in Lethbridge in the 1906 to 1913 time period). Kids (and the young at heart) will be able to design their own Lethbridge by moving these buildings around in the streetscape. Or, if you wish, you can put them on the map where they were originally located and get a better sense of what the streets of Lethbridge looked like between 1906 and 1913. Should we also include in this interactive miniature streetcars, cars, bicycles and horses so you can see how they got around the city?

I haven't told Brad and Anine this yet, but I'm tempted to include a few cows. A 1906 bylaw stated that cows could no longer wander through Lethbridge (they were knocking over all of the newly planted trees). The fire department had to be called on occasionally to round up cows wandering through Lethbridge. It was also the responsibility of the pound-keeper to lock up the cows until owners could come and get them. Or maybe we could include the sheep they used to keep at Henderson Lake to keep down the oats (which they planted instead of grass in the early days)? Or chickens? Or? .... What animals, if any, do you think we should include in the interactive city scape?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Women's Day: 100 Years

On this, the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, we thank all the women who have come before us for their hard work and perseverance.  We thought we'd share this Historica Minute we came across on twitter today via the Historica-Dominion Institute.

Tonight we celebrate the occasion with a special presentation of CafĂ© Galt to explore the history and relevance of IWD, and to look at issues facing women around the world today. 

And finally, please enjoy this selection of archival photographs tagged with "women" from our Flickr the Commons site!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Keeping It Fresh

Teachers often ask me how I keep it so fresh -- that even though I often repeat the same class for several different groups in the same week, I'm always energized and act like it's the first time I've ever heard that question.

Partly it's knowing that, for these students, it is the first time and you need to bring your A game every time.

But it's also because the teachers don't always know all of the fun and diverse things I get to do between classes.

This week my Monday started with an email forwarded from the University of Lethbridge. A woman was trying to find the identity of a German Prisoner of War who had been in southern Alberta in the 1940s. All she had was the name of the town where he had worked on a farm, the last name of the farmers and a nickname. She had tried all kinds of archives and places but with no luck. And our Archives did not have any records that could help her. The amazing good fortunate was that my Dad had lived for a while in this town and I had cousins who had or did live there. So I sent out a few requests on email and by noon the next day the name of the POW had been tracked down. How gratifying it was to be part of this woman finding the answer! And how amazing the work of a historian sometimes is -- while documents are great, never forget the importance of family gossip.

And on Monday I also learned that for the exhibit on Lethbridge 1906-1913 we were going to be able to borrow a 9 foot long painting from the University of Lethbridge that shows Lethbridge in the early 1900s. I can't wait to see this picture on the wall! You'll have to check it out when the exhibit opens April 30.

I also got to present a new school program this week as we had our first class through for the Fakes & Forgeries exhibit. When you're doing a program for the first time you have it all perfectly planned (and, yes, for those of you who know me it was planned in my head but not necessarily on paper) but you're not sure how the students (grades 4 and 5) will interact with the material. The discussions were great -- how to tell fakes, how to use information on the internet effectively, why people make fakes, etc. But I also realized that I'm not as sharp as 10 and 11 year olds at telling fake items. The teacher and I were looking at the battery box trying to see how you could tell it was a fake when a student walked up, glanced at the box and said "it has the wrong mascot." Parts of what keeps it all fresh is that no matter how much you study or prepare, students can always humble you (and inspire you).

On Thursday I learned that two very generous Lethbridge residents are going to loan us a 3 foot tall gas chandelier to be the showcase items for the interactive parlour we're putting into the Lethbridge 1906-1913 exhibit. And on Thursday Brad and I discussed how we're going to create "building blocks" of Lethbridge buildings and allow visitors to the exhibit to design the Lethbridge they would have wanted.

And then on Friday I was out of the museum at a class. The class was great (on the correct ways to fill out health and safety forms) but it's also fun to see what other city employees are doing and learn about their jobs. A large part of what keeps it fresh is thinking about how everything ties together and also being very happy that I get to work in a place with so few hazards (the others in the class worked for the fire department).

As you can see, never a dull moment. And now it's Friday and I'm off work for two days. But I can't wait to see what's going to be waiting for my in my inbox on Monday.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Katimavik In Your Community (2011) Lethbridge

Hello this is a message from Katimavik volunteers; we have been in Lethbridge since the 6th of January. The eleven of us, from all over Canada, are discovering Alberta from scratch - most of us have never come here before and had only a very vague idea of how life is in Southern Alberta.

Christina Theriault - I am a full time volunteer. When I come into work in the morning, I often join Belinda in her teaching frenzy. With a great variety of classes, from the Siksikaitsitapi or Blackfoot Peoples Voices program to Building Bridges, it is something to see - the kids are amazed every time.

Laurent Comeau - I am a part time volunteer. I usually start downstairs working with Brad Brown, exhibit designer and fabricator. Last week I worked on restoring an exhibit case and styling it for a 1950’s exhibit. When I work my full day of the week, usually Lori finds some inventory work or there is always mail-out that needs to be done. Often I team up with Christina for research for events. Sometimes we go in the city visiting stores and shops to ask for some support (gift certificates, donations or sponsorship, anything the store is able to give).

Katimavik volunteers have also been busy working at building Eggstravaganza crafts and drafts.

One of us if from British Columbia, five are from Ontario and the 5 others, including both Galt volunteers, are from Quebec. Christina Theriault works full time here at the Galt Museum & Archives as well as Laurent Comeau who is also part time working at the 5th on 5th Youth Center, with his fellow participant from B.C. Benjamin Nixon. From Quebec we also have Julien Vedel works at the SAAG (Southern Alberta Art Gallery), Dominique Larouche spends her volunteer time with the Birds of Prey center in Coaldale, and Emlyn Van volunteers full time at St-Michael’s Health Center. From Ontario we have Courtney Vaughan who is also full days at St-Theresa Villa, Ekaterina Huybregts works full time with Irene Sonnenburg at Safety City, and also with Michael Allupons-Dineen who splits his time with also being at the Birds of Prey center. Finally, last but not least, Vernon Johnathan King works part time at St-Theresa Villa and St-Michaels Health Center. Everyone fits well into their volunteer placement and enjoys most days of hard work even if sometimes we are tired, we are always re-motivated by the group who is always understanding and cheerful. We are also coming up with a presentation for the group about Earth hour for March 26th - we will present this to the city council of Lethbridge soon so please come and show your support to this project for Lethbridge when we present it.

Thanks a lot for your time. Hope to see you around. Now that you know where we are, stop and say Hi!

-Christina Theriault & Laurent Comeau